Crate Training Gone Wrong
Dear John, For the first 3 months my 7 month old puppy Amy was crated at night and while we were out. She has suddenly became extremely resistant to the crate.
When we return home we find her frantic and covered in her own saliva. Recently in the course of 45 minutes destroyed a blanket, removed the bottom tray from the crate, ripped up the carpet under the crate and caused injury to two of her paws. I elected to stop crate training, and instead allowed her to sleep with me and to confine her to the kitchen during the day.
Yesterday she was able to reach a pair of shoes approximately half a foot away from the gate and destroy them. I consulted a trainer and was told to go back to crate training but crate her in a room separate from mine for the night. After about 3hrs she began frantic panicked cries. Her bottom jaw was stuck in the metal grate-door. Needless to say, I did not put her back in that crate.
I am returning to work full time in 2 weeks and at 7 months old she simply isn’t ready to be trusted with the run of the house. Since the crate training has failed I feel like my only option at this stage is to give Amy up to my parents when I return to work full-time. I sincerely hope that that is not my only option and there is something I can do.
When they’re introduced and used properly a crate should = den = sanctuary. The problem here might be that after 3 months Amy has collected enough data to refute that theory and prove that crate = portal to loneliness.
It seems her crate training experience is that she’s only in the crate when you are leaving her for the night or leaving her behind when you go out. I understand the need to protect her and the house but crate training also needs to be used in association with you and purposefully connected to positive experiences.
Crate training when you are home does mean that her crate time will go up but I don’t worry about how much time a dog is in a crate if all its other needs are being met. That means, good nutrition, lots of real exercise, puzzle solving, training exercises and loving time. If that’s taken care of I have no problem putting a pup in the crate for its naps for a daily extra special only in the crate chew toy date and sometimes just because I’m too busy to keep an eye peeled.
During early crate training rather than leave a pup alone in one room, I’ll haul a crate around the house with me and I don’t hope they get used to being alone, I train for it. As a rule of thumb my goal is to ease an 8 week old puppy from no time alone to about 4 hours a day with no one in the house by the time they’re 16 weeks of age. That means working with family, friends, doggy daycares etc for the first few months.
If you want to recommence crate training you’ll likely be doing much of the same thing but with a much longer time line. However I’m a little worried that there may be more going on here than meets the eye. She may genuinely disposed to anxiousness so I encourage you to connect with both a trainer and a vet with lots of experience with this problem. A vet might recommend some natural or prescribed medications that might help in the transition and a trainer can introduce you to some independence and confidence building exercises.
PS. I just had another letter from someone in a tough spot with a dog and the following is a cut and paste of some crate associated information. The crate’s an option but dogs will go to great lengths to escape the crate as well and the average crate isn’t up to the challenge. The dog’s often escape and/or get hurt trying to.
I have mentioned at one time or another a dog of my own who for reasons other than anxiety needed to be crated. I tested first (by spying) to see what would happen and it became apparent he was going to destroy any standard crate and work himself into a frenzy as he was doing it. He and I were in between a rock and a hard place. I put him in a crate designed for extreme use and he didn’t like it any better but I think because his initial assaults bore no fruit whatsoever his thoughts went elsewhere. Some dogs however will soil in the crate if they can’t get out. That’s less likely if the dog is given time to get used to it in scenarios that don’t normally trigger high anxiety episodes. The crate I used is the one featured in the other video on this page and can be ordered on-line. Click here for more information.